Flying can be a hassle almost any time of year, but during the holidays and other peak travel days, it’s enough to make the most patient, easygoing person melt down into a full-blown tantrum. The long lines, the rude airport employees, the crowds of people with gigantic knock-you-in-the-knees suitcases … no wonder plane travel is one of the most stressful means of conveyance.
But despite the aggravation, air travel is necessary (unless you have the time for car, boat, or train travel instead). Whether you’re heading on vacation or you’re on your way to visit family several states away, this list of tips can help you stay sane and maybe even — gasp! — comfortable while you’re at the airport and beyond.
1. Check in online
In today’s day and age, most airlines offer travelers the opportunity to check in online before they even arrive at the airport. Taking care of this crucial step at home means you’ll get through the whole process faster, and if you don’t have any bags to check, you won’t even need to stand in the check-in line at all.
Next: Pick the best line.
2. Pick the line close to the business desk
Before you get in line, take note of where the business desk’s location and try lining up right next to it. If the line gets long enough and the business desk stays empty, they’ll often start pulling people out of the regular line and processing them separately. You’ll want to be one of those people.
Next: A private jet might be cheaper.
3. Fly on a private jet
Does flying by private jet sound like a crazy expense reserved for billionaires only? Think again.
Kind of like Uber for planes, private jet owners sometimes offer unused seats for steep discounts, and you’ll spend even less than you’d pay to fly on commercial airlines. You’ll need to be a little flexible and be willing to wait until the last minute to book your flight, but the reward is well worth it.
Next: Be a strategic packer.
4. Pack like you’re flying
The way you pack is almost as important as what you pack when you’re flying. Since you already know security will need you to remove your laptop from your bag, why would you bury it on the bottom? Also, keep your toiletries accessible to make going through security as quick and painless as possible.
Next: This trick is scientifically proven to make you happy.
5. Work out before you board
Maybe you don’t have time for spin class, but taking ten minutes for light stretching and some yoga poses can help make your whole travel experience more pleasant.
Exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel happier and more relaxed — the perfect antidote to pre-flight jitters. Plus, limber, loose muscles are less likely to get sore after being crammed into a tiny airplane seat for hours. Exercise is an all-around great decision.
Next: Break out your fancy pants.
6. Dress nicely
Certain outfits could be the reason that you’re banned from boarding the flight at all.
Take a cue from the days when people used to wear 3-piece suits for travel and leave your fuzzy bunny slippers at home (or at least packed away in your luggage). The nicer you look, the better the staff will treat you, which could even lead to perks like free upgrades. Hey, it can’t hurt.
Next: Skip the black luggage.
7. Make your luggage stand out
Another piece of black luggage? Seriously?
When you’re luggage shopping, skip the norm and opt for a bright, can’t-miss color so you’ll easily be able to spot your bag coming off the baggage carousel. One company actually makes luggage wraps with your face emblazoned on them, but you don’t need to go that extreme. If your bags happen are black, just tie a patterned bandanna around the handle.
Next: Go left.
8. Head left in the security line
Research shows that people tend to go right when faced with two line options, so heading left may mean you’ll have less time to wait. Another option is to skip the security line altogether by signing up for TSA PreCheck.
Next: Bring an empty water bottle.
9. Drink water
Dehydration can be a real problem on planes since the humidity is at a much lower level than you’re used to. To combat the negative effects of dehydration, such as dry skin and eyes, be sure to drink lots of water before, during, and after your flight.
Don’t want to overpay for water? Bring an empty bottle to the airport and fill it after you pass through security.
Next: The more information you have, the better.
10. Read the rules
If you haven’t flown in a few years, then there’s a good chance the rules have changed since the last time you boarded a flight. Go online for an updated roster of rules and regulations. Or, if you have a specific question, you can even use social media to get your questions answered.
Next: Keep your pockets empty.
11. Put your pocket contents in your bag
You’re going to have to empty your pockets before getting through security — that’s a given. Plan ahead by keeping everything in a designated place before you reach the front of the line so you can breeze right through.
Next: Hang out at your gate for the best information.
12. Head to your gate immediately
Delays and changes happen, and your gate will always have the most up-to-date information. Parking yourself there will keep you informed about what’s going on with your flight.
Next: Avoid dead batteries.
13. Bring a power splitter
Outlets in airports are at a premium, so a power splitter can be a real lifesaver. Fully charge all your devices ahead of time and then keep the splitter on hand for any emergencies. It’s a good idea to have a portable battery charger handy as well.
Next: The end of the line isn’t the end of the world.
14. Don’t rush during boarding
Guess what? As long as you’re at your gate on time, the plane is not leaving without you. There’s no need to jump to the front of the line once boarding begins. Instead, wait until the line dies down a little and save your sanity.
Next: Kill them with kindness.
15. Be nice
Ever hear the phrase, “You get more flies with honey?” That’s absolutely true when it comes to flying. The nicer you are to airport employees and flight attendants, the more likely you are to get freebies on the plane or free upgrades. And being kind to your seatmates means you’re less likely to get into a fistfight over the armrest.
In general, being polite can only bring you good vibes and happy travels.
Read more: 15 Secrets Airlines Don’t Want You to Know
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